Whitaker oversees Mueller investigation. TRANSCRIPT: 11/21/18, The Rachel Maddow Show

Nelson Cunningham, Donna Ladd

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chris.  And happy, happy turkey –



CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST:  You, too.  You, too.


REID:  Thank you very much.  Appreciate it. 


All right.  Thank you all for joining us this hour.  I`m Joy Reid.  Rachel

has the night off. 


Well, Donald Trump surely is aware of the stunned outraged response, even

from his lockstep political allies in the Republican Party over his

decision not to punish Saudi Arabia for the killing of “Washington Post”

journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 


Now, we learned last week that the CIA has concluded the Saudi crown prince

almost certainly ordered the killing.  Yesterday, the president ignored the

CIA`s conclusion in a bizarrely worded statement saying essentially, never

mind what the CIA says, maybe he did, and maybe he didn`t. 


Answering reporter questions yesterday before jetting off to Mar-a-Lago for

the Thanksgiving break, Trump inaccurately claimed the CIA had, quote,

nothing definitive on the prince`s involvement.  He also said he was

standing with the kingdom, because he did not want the U.S. to lose out on

economic deals with Saudi Arabia.  He denied the support had anything to do

with his long-standing ties with the Saudis, even though he bragged several

times during the campaign about his love for the Saudis and how many

apartments they bought from him. 





billion dollars a day, a billion dollars a day.  I love the Saudis.  Many

are in this building. 


Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them.  They buy apartments from me. 

They spend $40 million, $50 million.  Am I supposed to dislike them?  I

like them very much. 




REID:  Trump was not shy in the campaign trail about his business ties with

the Saudis.  And today, even after a torn-up criticism for his bizarre

statement of support for the Saudis, an undercutting of the CIA`s

conclusion, he doubled down with his total support for the kingdom with a

7:29 a.m. tweet thanking Saudi Arabia for falling oil prices, let`s go



Now, it`s worth noting for the record that the president also backed away

from his campaign rhetoric about how much he loves doing business with the

Saudis.  He told reporters, I don`t make deals with Saudi Arabia.  I don`t

have any money from Saudi Arabia.  I have nothing to do with Saudi Arabia.


Which conveniently ignores Trump`s long deal making history with that

country dating back to the 1990s.  This is a picture of the Trump Princess

a 282-foot luxury yacht, that was one of Trump`s prized possessions in the

1980s before he had to give it up.  As “The A.P.” notes in 1991, as Trump

was teetering on the brink of personal bankruptcy and scrambling to raise

cash, he sold his 282-foot Trump yacht Princess to a Saudi prince for $20

million.  Four years later that same prince bailed Trump out in a $325

million deal for Trump`s money-losing Plaza Hotel. 


In 2001, Trump sold the entire 45th floor of the Trump World Tower across

from the United Nations in New York City for $12 million, the biggest

purchase in that building to that point.  The buyer: the kingdom of Saudi



And that is to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in Saudi

spending at Trump`s hotels in New York City and D.C. just since he became

president.  So, yes.  Thank you, Saudi Arabia.  Let`s go lower. 


Now, of course, going lower has never been a problem for this president. 

Nor has siding with another country over the high confidence assessment of

his own intelligence agencies. 




REPORTER:  Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the

election interference of 2016.  Every U.S. intelligence agency concluded

Russia did.  What – who – my first question for you, sir, is, who do you



TRUMP:  My people came to me.  Dan Coates came to me, and some others. 

They said they think it`s Russia.  I have President Putin.  He just said

it`s not Russia. 


I will say this, I don`t see any reason why it would be.  So, I have great

confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President

Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. 




REID:  So, of course, the question why Trump remains so sympathetic to

Vladimir Putin remains the $64 million mystery.  Yesterday, Trump submitted

his written answers to special counsel Robert Mueller on the subject of any

potential collusion with Russia during the campaign.  Those answers did not

address any questions on the topic of whether Trump has sought to obstruct

justice while he was in the White House. 


The special counsel`s team is presumably poring over the president`s

answers.  As expected, we have not heard anything in the way of response

from Team Mueller.  We did hear from the special counsel today in a filing

about Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.  Papadopoulos pleaded

guilty about lying about his contacts during the campaign with a professor

who said that Russian had thousands of Hillary Clinton`s e-mails. 

Papadopoulos had already asked the judge in his case to delay the start of

his prison sentence which he has – his due to begin serving. 


And today, Mueller advised the judge to reject that request and make

Papadopoulos report to prison next week as scheduled.  In a six-page

filing, the special counsel noted, quote, as a part of a favorable plea

agreement, the defendant waived his appeal and did not file a timely

notice.  The defendant received what he bargained for and holding him to it

is not a hardship.  So, we saw a tough line from Mueller today regarding



But as for the president, we have yet to see whether Mueller will press for

a sit-down interview and whether he is willing to subpoena Donald Trump in

order to get answers related to possible obstruction of justice. 


Today, the president`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani confirmed, I can`t tell you

Mueller has given up on obstruction.  As for any potential subpoena, he

said, quote, I think he would not win a legal battle if he did that and I

think it would consume months.  Even made the president`s position clear,

if Mueller does issue a subpoena, the president will refuse to cooperate. 


The person who could stand between Mueller and any potential presidential

subpoena is the man currently in charge of the Justice Department, Donald

Trump`s hand-picked not Senate-confirmed choice to serve as acting attorney

general, Matt Whitaker.  Well, today in New York, Whitaker was asked by

reporters for his reaction to the latest report in “The New York Times”

that the president of the United States wanted to use the Justice

Department to go after those he deemed his political enemies, James Comey

and Hillary Clinton. 




MATT WHITAKER, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I mean, I can`t thank him enough. 

It`s humbling to be a part of it.  So thank you. 


REPORTER:  Can you answer a question if you have had a discussion with the

president about investigating Hillary Clinton or James Comey? 




REID:  Not a lot of answers there.  Though we continue to have new details

about the man running the Justice Department, the kind of details that

might come up in a Senate confirmation hearing, which instead are coming

out through dogged reporting by the press and public pressure from watchdog

groups, that`s how we learned about Whitaker`s myriad of past statements

attacking the credibility of the Mueller investigation and his past work

hawking products for a company that was fined and shut down by the

government, as well as his last job before joining the Justice Department

last year as the sole employee at a conservative nonprofit called the

Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust or FACT. 


That nonprofit`s primary work in 2016 was to stir up controversy about

Hillary Clinton.  Whitaker`s own newly released financial disclosures show

that he was paid more than $1.2 million in the past few years by this group

that does not reveal its donors.  But they paid him the money for – what

they paid him for, the money we don`t know.  Those donors are secret. 

Meaning, we do not know if the man in charge of the Mueller probe has any

conflict of interest. 


We also don`t know what`s going on behind closed doors with regards to

Whitaker`s oversight of the Mueller investigation.  If Matt Whitaker were

hindering the Mueller inquiry, right now, as we speak, would we even know? 


That is the subject of the latest op-ed by Nelson Cunningham, a former

federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York.  In it, he writes,

there is no real time mechanism to compel disclosure of any interactions

between Whitaker and Mueller.  Yes, some day under the regulations, we may

learn details of Mueller`s interactions with Whitaker and of any effort to

interfere.  Some day, Mueller will present a report in which he can outline

any way in which his investigation may have been shaped by Whitaker. 


That some day will come only when Mueller is ready to close up shop, and

the person he`ll tell is the attorney general himself.


And joining us now is Nelson Cunningham, former federal prosecutor, also a

veteran of the Clinton White House and a former Biden staffer on Senate



Mr. Cunningham, thank you very much for being here.



to be here. 


REID:  Thank you.


So, let`s go over what you wrote in your op-ed, which will disturb a lot of

people.  The fact is, is that Donald Trump`s main beef with his former

attorney general, of course, was that Jeff Sessions recused himself,

presumably stopping him from impeding the Mueller probe.  Now that Donald

Trump has his Roy Cohn, presumably, his Matt Whitaker, is there – is it

possible that Whitaker could simply shield from public view his own

obstruction of the Mueller probe? 


CUNNINGHAM:  Yes.  So the way the regulations are set up that govern Robert

Mueller`s appointment, the attorney general only is required three

different stages to make any kind of disclosure of what interactions he`s

had with the special counsel.  First, when he appoints the special counsel,

second, if he fires the special counsel, and third, upon the conclusion of

the special counsel`s investigation. 


At that point, he would be required to describe any instances he had made,

he had had with Mueller, where he overruled Mueller or he curtailed Mueller

or he stopped Mueller from moving forward, but only once Mueller`s

investigation is complete and Mueller has submitted his report.  Months or

possibly years from now. 


REID:  Meaning that if he does anything up to short of firing him, if he

says to Mueller, you can`t go into Donald Trump`s finances, you have to

limit your inquiry into these areas.  You can`t do that.


Congress wouldn`t even know about that? 


CUNNINGHAM:  Congress would not know about it.  Whitaker, of course, would

have no interest in leaking this out.  And Mr. Mueller, himself, is

famously tight lipped and he`s also a rules follower.  He might chafe.  He

might be very upset his discretion is being limited.  But he follows the



REID:  Could Whitaker, even though he is acting, and there`s a lot of

question about whether or not his appointment is even constitutional,

whether or not it could stand.  Could he, despite that, fire Mueller? 


CUNNINGHAM:  Yes, he could.  There is no question in my mind that at least

right now while he is the acting attorney general, the second that he took

that job, he took over supervision of the Mueller case from Rosenstein who

he had as his deputy only because Jeff Sessions was recused.  Whitaker took

over the control of it, and under the regulations, he has the ability to

call Mueller in, shape the investigation, and certainly, yes, to fire him. 


REID:  At the same time could he also impede investigation into his own

dealings at the company, for instance, that he used to work for which was

allegedly being investigated?  Could he do that as well at the same time? 


CUNNINGHAM:  Well, he could.  I think at that point, ethics watchdogs would

begin to – and those in the Justice Department, themselves, would begin to

really buck and rear at the notion of an attorney general blocking an

investigation into himself. 


REID:  Then I guess the other question would be, let`s play this out all

the way.  Let`s just say, that a future Congress, maybe not this one, were

to respond to the firing for instance of a Robert Mueller by saying let`s

go back to the independent statute, because that then is controlled by

Congress.  Could that independent counsel absorb the Mueller probe and

still complete it?  . 


CUNNINGHAM:  Yes.  So, Robert Mueller, if he`s smart, before the midterms -

- because he knew there was likely to be a change coming.  If he were

smart, he would start bullet proofing his investigation.  Part of it by

passing off the investigation to other professional prosecutors, like my

old office the Southern District of New York, which you remember is

handling the Michael Cohen investigation. 


REID:  Sure.


CUNNINGHAM:  There are other – the national security division of the

Department of Justice is now hiring the Russian troll part of the

investigation.  So, Mueller has already bulletproofed parts of the

investigation by giving it to other professionals in the department.  If a

new prosecutor were named at a later time, all of the materials that

Mueller had put together would be given to that new prosecutor.  In fact,

some of the same agents and some of the same professional prosecutors who

are on Mueller`s team could go straight to that prosecutor and pick up

right where they left off. 


REID:  Lastly, before we let you go, let`s just say that Mueller was

dismissed, could a deputy prosecutor in that office – could another

prosecutor as a whistleblower just go to Congress and say, this is what we

got in. 


CUNNINGHAM:  Yes, they could.  Mueller`s people are famously operated under

strict ethical guidelines.  They`ve kept their mouths shut.  They have not



It would be a new thing to leak to Congress or the press, anything that is

happening with them.  But those would be extraordinary circumstances. 


REID:  Yes, it would indeed.  Nelson Cunningham, thank you very much. 

Really appreciate it. 


CUNNINGHAM:  What a pleasure.  Thank you. 


REID:  Thank you. 


And despite the fact that the president decided to do an end run around the

Senate for now and install a loyalist as acting A.G., the black box that is

Matthew Whitaker`s track record as a federal prosecutor and public official

is steadily getting a dose of daylight, thanks to the free press. 


In recent days, a whole bunch of Matt Whitaker`s past is getting an airing,

from his mysterious non-profit, to the revelation that Matthew Whitaker

once applied for a judgeship on the Iowa Supreme Court while bragging about

his football career.  When asked how he would, quote, enhance Iowa`s

Supreme Court, Whitaker cited his, quote, senior season on the football



Suffice it to say, Matt Whitaker did not make it onto to Ohio`s state

Supreme Court.  But now, add to the list of Matt Whitaker`s dirty laundry,

something that is anything but funny.  “The Washington Post” dug into

Whitaker`s tenure as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa where

he was known for his extraordinary efforts to, quote, obtain unusually

stiff sentences for people accused of drug crimes. 


In Matt Whitaker`s five years as U.S. attorney in Iowa, his office, quote,

was more likely than all but one other district in the United States to use

its north – authority to impose the harshest sentences on drug offenders. 

One federal judge in Iowa did the math.  On Whitaker`s watch, the U.S.

attorney`s office in the Southern District of Iowa used what are called

enhanced sentences, in 84 percent of relevant cases, compared with 26

percent nationwide. 


Of the nonviolent drug offends sentenced on Whitaker`s watch, one of them

was a mother of five, Raeanna Woody.  When Ms. Woody was arrested for the

third time on a nonviolent drug charge, Matt Whitaker, quote, decided to

make an example of her.  He gave this mother of five a choice.  Quote,

spend the rest of her life in jail or accept a plea bargain sentence of 21

to 27 years. 


She took the deal.  And then a federal judge later read Matt Whitaker the

Riot Act over it, saying he and other prosecutors misused their authority

and forced the court to hand down a sentence that was way too long for the

crime.  President Obama ultimately commuted Miss Woody`s sentence after she

had served 11 years, and now, Matt Whitaker is the top law enforcement

officer in the nation, for who knows how long. 


We can watch and wonder what he might be doing behind the scenes when it

comes to the Mueller investigation.  But in public, he`s going about his

business as attorney general even as his approach to justice spills into

view headline by headline. 


Joining us now is Paul Butler, former federal prosecutor and law professor

at Georgetown University. 


It`s great to have you here, Paul. 




REID:  So, this – you know, we know that we previously had an Attorney

General Jeff Sessions who had a very certain disposition towards drug

crimes, towards legalization and towards sentencing.  He wanted it to be as

harsh as possible on the sentencing side.  With Whitaker, we have examples

of him using his authority to make sentences harsher.  


What does that mean for criminal justice reform?  Is that even possible

with this man sitting in the A.G. chair?


BUTLER:  Yes.  So, this case, Ms. Woody, she was a non-violent drug

offender.  She didn`t even touch the drugs in this case.  All she did was

drive the actual drug dealer around. 


When I was a prosecutor, we probably wouldn`t have even wanted jail time in

that case like this.  This is a mother of five, someone who is working for

a drug dealer to support her own addiction.  We would have tried to put her

into a treatment program. 


Whitaker, on the other hand, he did what unethical prosecutors do, he threw

the book at her.  He said, if you go to trial and we win, you`re going to

be in jail for the rest of your life for this very minor role. 


You know, when prosecutors do that, they throw the book at people to try to

coerce them to plead guilty to a harsh sentence so that they don`t go to

trial.  They don`t make prosecutors go through the trouble of going to

trial.  They`re acting more like bullies than responsible law enforcement



Joy, when Eric Holder was the attorney general of the United States, he

expressly forbid prosecutors from doing what Matt Whitaker did. 


REID:  You know, it`s interesting, because criminal justice reform is one

of the few, so often, you have Democrats and Republicans agreeing that it

should be done.  What in theory is the argument against it?  What was the

argument for throwing a book at a mother of five, for making an example of

someone by putting a mom in prison for 21 years?  What argument are people

making why that`s a good idea? 


BUTLER:  You know, what Whitaker is he wanted to make an example of this

mother of five, I guess, to send a message to anybody else out there that

he is tough on crime.  Well, what responsible prosecutors are is smart on

crime.  This is a man who believes in winning at all costs.  He is very

hyped about the adversarial system and to him winning means getting

convictions and putting people under the jail. 


That`s really against the values of the Justice Department, which are about

fairness and equality under the law.  There`s a famous slogan, the Justice

Department wins when justice is done.  Not when there is a conviction.  I

wish that Matt Whitaker will live according to that. 


But, Joy, you know in this conflicts of interest, his ethics, his lack of

understanding of the values of the Justice Department, the rule of law,

he`s like a lawyer version of Donald Trump.  Our justice system is in poor



REID:  And what are the risks that somebody with that disposition has also

expressed views that would advocate the prosecution of Donald Trump`s

political adversaries?  I`m thinking of Hillary Clinton here. 


BUTLER:  Yes, again, he doesn`t under the norms.  It`s about power to him. 

Since he`s got this access to Donald Trump, again I think we have every

reason to expect, that instead of Rod Rosenstein getting briefed by

Mueller, now, Matt Whitaker is getting briefed.  And he might be marching

to the White House and telling Donald Trump everything that Mueller has

told him. 


REID:  Wow.  That`s why the curse, may we live in interesting times.


BUTLER:  Indeed.


REID:  It`s considered a negative. 


Paul Butler, former federal prosecutor, law professor at Georgetown

University and author of the book “Chokehold.”  Check it out.  Thank you

very much for being here. 


BUTLER:  Always a pleasure, Joy. 


REID:  Thank you.


And up next, we look in on the Senate candidate who insisted that she has

nothing more to say.  The Senate runoff in Mississippi just ahead. 




SEN. CINDY HYDE-SMITH (R), MISSISSIPPI:  I put out a statement yesterday. 

We stand by that statement. 


REPORTER:  Could you expand on it why you said it?  What you meant by it

and why people in the state should not see it as offensive? 


HYDE-SMITH:  We put out statement yesterday.  It`s available.  We stand by

that statement.  I put out a statement yesterday, that`s all I`m going to

say about it.  We stand by the statement.  That`s all I`m going to say

about it.  I put out a statement yesterday.






REID:  Believe it or not, the 2018 midterms are still not over.  There`s

still one U.S. Senate seat left to be decided in this year`s election.  And

it`s in Mississippi. 


This is a race where neither the Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith nor

her numbered challenger Mike Espy got more than 50 percent of the vote on

November 6th.  Now, they`re facing off again in a runoff election on



Now, because this is a statewide race in Mississippi, the Republican ought

to win.  She ought to be able to win in her sleep.  And maybe she might do

better in her sleep, because Senator Hyde-Smith has been trying to explain

her public joking remarks about public hangings, aka, lynchings. 


Also, her comments, definitely joking about making it more difficult for

liberal students from certain schools to vote.  Ha ha.  Comedy. 


Companies like Walmart have been asking the senator`s campaign to return

their donations.  And then we got this, the photo of Cindy Hyde-Smith

smiling wearing a Confederate soldiers cap because why not?  Last night,

Senator Hyde-Smith and Mike Espy appeared in the one and only debate of

this election, the only one that for Hyde-Smith would agree to. 


In this debate, she made clear right from the get-go what she believes this

election is all about. 




DEBATE MODERATOR:  Senator Hyde-Smith. 


HYDE-SMITH:  Thank you for watching and listening to this debate tonight. 

And thank you, Farm Bureau, for putting this debate on.  There`s two other

big events coming up next week on Monday fight the night before the

election on November the 26th.  The president of the United States is

coming to Mississippi to campaign on my behalf.  I encourage you right now

to go online at DonaldjTrump.com and get those free tickets. 




REID:  That`s how she started last night`s debate, hey, everybody, enough

about me, the president is coming to Mississippi. 


In addition to the senator`s request there be no studio audience at last

night`s debate no press beyond the moderators, you might want to know the

debate last night was being organized by a private Mississippi farming

organization with an all-white board that has given Senator Hyde-Smith

awards in the past.  Not to mention campaign contributions. 


And the senator used her time in the debate to remind the only television

camera in the room over and over and over again about just how conservative

she really is. 




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is there a balance that should be struck between the

Second Amendment rights and gun control in the wake of recent mass



HYDE-SMITH:  You know, this is a big difference between my opponent and I,

I am a lifetime member of the NRA.  I have been endorsed by the NRA.  And

certainly school violence is a terrible thing.  That is about mental



When it comes to Second Amendment rights, bill the U.S. senator to protect



I`ve always said, this is not about me.  It is about you the

Mississippians.  It`s about the things that you care for, the things that

you believe in, like lower taxes, less government, less regulation,

supporting our military and our veterans. 


It is about protecting our unborn children.  It`s about abortion.  My

opponent has already gone on record to be pro-abortion, abortion on demand. 

There is a clear difference between the two of us. 


You know, we have conservative values.  That`s what`s going to be on the

ballot next Tuesday. 


Tonight, you have heard two clearly different, opposite differences between

me and my opponent. 




REID:   I wonder what she actually thinks about things.  We do not know how

it will affect the Mississippi race.  Cindy Hyde-Smith said she was sorry

if her remarks about public hangings offend anyone. 


She would ask voters to come out and vote for her Tuesday, November 22nd,

which is not an actually real date.  The 22nd is Thanksgiving. 


No Democrat has won a Senate race in Mississippi in more than three

decades.  Before the debate, the political newspaper “Roll Call” did the

unthinkable.  They moved the Mississippi Senate race from solid to likely

Republican.  Now it`s up to the voters of Mississippi and to history. 


And joining us is Donna Ladd, the founder and editor of the “Jackson Free

Press” in Jackson, Mississippi.  Her paper has been breaking news on the

Senate race all along. 


Ms. Ladd, thank you so much for joining us tonight. 





REID:  So I watched this debate last night in which Senator Hyde-Smith

addressed the public hanging comments when she said were meant to be an

expression of regard.  And then I – you know, I watched the entire debate

when she just kept coming back to guns, abortion, and Second Amendment and

repeating the response to her hanging comments was just using it as a

political cudgel against her. 


Am I wrong in thinking that`s an argument that would work in a state like



LADD:  It absolutely would work.  I mean, it`s kind of politics as usual,

the, quote, conventional wisdom that sometimes Democrats have used in their

strategy.  This assumption that, you know, Mississippi is conservative,

solidly conservative, that`s who we are. 


And there`s always been an attitude if we`re not that, then we can leave. 

And that`s something that many people now are fighting because we don`t

think that that is true or that it should be true. 


REID:  Right.  Obviously, your paper was in Jackson, Mississippi, Jackson

being where Medgar Evers, you know, lived and died.  It was a place where

he fought really hard to register African-American voters, lynching, the

history of Mississippi.  A lot of it is quite dark territory. 


LADD:  Right. 


REID:  However, one of the things the Trump era has meant is that for a lot

of – you know, not a lot of, you know, every white American, but for some,

this idea of calling out racism has been turned around for people to say

that doesn`t affect me anymore.  I can say what I want to see.  I can do

whatever I want to do, if you think it`s racist, so what?  And that that`s

kind of what Donald Trump has emboldened. 


I wonder why wouldn`t that argument that she`s making – that you are using

this as politics.  It doesn`t matter.  I mean, why wouldn`t that work? 


LADD:  Well, I think it can work.  It may work.  That`s something we can`t

know right now.  But it`s a math question, because at the same time that

she`s doing that the very things she is doing and the race baiting, Lee

Atwater type strategies of trying to depict Espy as a criminal for

something he was exonerated for, at the same time she`s using those things,

other people are really disgusted by them. 


And to be honest with you in a way I have never seen as a Mississippi

native or since I have been pack – back in the state, that people are

speaking out and white people are speaking out.  I interviewed a white

Republican woman last night for a piece that I`m working on about

conservative women who are kind of changing their minds about things.  And

she`s disgusted with Trump and supporting Espy. 


I mean, there`s people are out there and it`s an interesting time to see if

the strategy is going to backfire this year or at least sometime in the

next few years. 


REID:  We know that Alabama had an impact, emboldened African-American

voters, particularly black women, and it`s had an impact – it caused a lot

of people to have a lot of hope.  If you look at the states with the most

black voters by percentage, Alabama, Mississippi, states like South

Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, there`s a lot of black voters there. 

So, in theory, these states should be winnable for Democrats. 


But is Mississippi going to be more of an Alabama where the backlash to all

of this environment that you`ve seen in Georgia and Florida helps Espy, or

are we going to see a repeat of where the people who want to make sure that

Espy isn`t governor are just more numerous? 


LADD:  Right.  You know, it`s anybody`s guess to me, because there`s so

many people – particularly African-Americans, but a lot of whites who are

so outraged by these kinds of comments and then the way that she did or did

not respond to them.  It`s so distasteful.  Espy says it gives us a black

eye that`s self-inflicted, right? 


So I think it could go either way.  I mean, I think people are – certainly

people who would vote for Espy are very excited now.  And one of the

concerns is that the turnout was going to drop after Thanksgiving, right? 

On the other hand, I mean, she`s certainly going for this idea I think of

activating even a former Chris McDaniels supporters they have both beaten

who is more conservative. 


So, she`s going straight for that jugular, you know?  We`ll see.  It`s

exciting to see everybody upset and inspired by it.  But I don`t know what

this turnout is going to be. 


REID:  Yes.  Well, I have to tell you, saying that Mississippi can go

either way, that in and of itself is new, novel, and revolutionary,

frankly.  So, the fact that it`s not clear is interesting news.  We will

definitely be watching that. 


LADD:  That`s right.  We need two parties.  We need two parties, you know,

and – 


REID:  Yes.  Absolutely.  Donna Ladd, I`m sorry.  We`re out of time,

founder and editor of “The Jackson Free Press” – thank you so much.  Thank

you for spending Thanksgiving eve with us and all your great reporting. 


LADD:  My pleasure.  Thank you. 


REID:  Thank you. 


We`ll be right back. 






UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good evening.  Nearly all the votes have been counted

in the 1974 midterm election.  And as we saw last night, it was a very good

year for the Democrats.  The House of Representatives in the 94th Congress

will be more than two-thirds Democratic, 291 Democrats will be there for

sure, a gain of 43 seats, the biggest majority in a decade.  Two races are

still undecided. 




REID:  That was November 6th, 1974, 90 days after President Nixon resigned,

60 days after Gerald Ford pardoned him, which set the stage for Democrats

to pull an epic route of Republicans in those 1974 midterm elections. 


In the House that year, Democrats won the biggest majority in a decade. 

The Democratic margin of victory was even more apparent in the popular

vote.  In 1974, Democrats beat Republicans by more than 8.7 million votes,

a record that has stood for 44 years, but is now in danger of being

shattered because as the votes continue to roll in, more than two weeks

after election day, Democrats are now ahead of Republicans by more than 8.6

million votes, just a hair behind that Watergate-era Democratic victory



Now, new NBC News data shows Democrats won 53.1 percent of all votes

counted while Republicans earned 45.2.  So far, Democrats have a net gain

of 38 House seats.  And that number can still go up. 


Witness California`s congressional district 21, which Hillary Clinton

carried by more than 15 points in the 2016 election.  Where incumbent

Republican Congressman David Valadao was declared the winner on election

night.  But California is notorious for being slow when it comes to vote

counting, and now, this race is looking like it might not be over after

all.  As votes have continue to come in since election night, the

Democratic challenger T.J. Cox now trails by fewer than 500 votes, that`s

less than half a percentage point.  There are still thousands of votes to

be tallied in this race from different counties that favor both candidates. 


And tonight, FiveThirtyEight has changed the projection from lean R to lean

D.  So as Rachel says, watch this space. 


We also have breaking news to report out of Georgia in the 7th

congressional district, which is currently held by Republican Congressman

Rob Woodall.  The state finished its recount requested by the Democrat who

is behind by a mere 419 votes.  Tonight, that Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux

has officially conceded, as the recount brought in more votes for Woodall. 


That brings us to the one lone House seat that NBC has not yet called, in

Utah`s 4th congressional district.  Two-term Republican Congresswoman Mia

Love looks poised to lose her seat.  As votes have come in over the past

several days, the Democratic challenger Ben McAdams has taken the lead and

declared victory. 


Love has not yet conceded.  She did release a cryptic statement thanking

her voters for all the support and says she plans to give a statement after

the Thanksgiving holiday.  The midterms elections may have been 15 days

ago, but they are still not over. 


Again, watch this space.




REID:  It was panned as flat fiction, a spooky, swift-told lascivious tale,

that is not art, not a single character, major or minor.  It`s anything

more than a caricature or cliche.  It`s an example of extremism.  It is

even irresponsible.


Irresponsible extremism.  This is not art.  The object of this flaming

critique, the author whose book that set up such apoplexy was the late

Fletcher Knebel. 


According to Wikipedia, fight me, they do know things, Mr. Knebel was the

source of the, quote, smoking is one of the leading causes of statistics. 


We remember him for his irresponsible lascivious flat fiction that sent

Washington, D.C. atwitter in 1965.  “Night of Camp David” is a dystopian

thriller that followed the U.S. senator trying to convince everyone in the

president`s circle that the president is unfit for office.  Which is why

these troubled times, Rachel had occasion to bring up “Night of Camp David”

on the show, like a senior official in the Trump administration revealed

that there have been whispers within the cabinet about having the current

president declared unfit and removed from office. 


Say what you want, but critics of 1965, “Night of Camp David” is back.  It

got released anew this week with a brand new cover and an audio book

version, a swift, told, lascivious tale of an imaginary American president

from half a century ago brought back for our time. 


As Rachel likes to say, history is here to help. 


And joining us now, I`m pleased to say, is Michael Beschloss, NBC News

presidential historian who is also here to help. 


Thank you very much for being here.



love the great opening. 


REID:  Thank you.  I love that kind of flowery language and the critique. 


BESCHLOSS:  Especially the lascivious.  I thought that was –


REID:  You got to bring words like – 




REID:  I love a $17 word. 


Let`s talk about this president, the state of him.  He`s now been taken to

task by the chief justice of the Supreme Court after Donald Trump said on

Tuesday in reaction to a 9th circuit stopping his administration asylum

restrictions.  He called him an Obama judge.  He then gets rebuked by John



What is the important significance of that? 


BESCHLOSS:  We`ve never seen anything like this before.  You know, we`ve

seen confrontations between presidents and chief justices.  Abraham Lincoln

and his first inaugural, criticized the Dred Scott decision and the chief

justice who was for it, whose name was Taney, who had sworn him in. 


Franklin Roosevelt did the same thing with Chief Justice Hughes in 1937

that helps strike down a lot of New Deal legislation.  So there was an

angry relationship between them. 


But you never had a situation where the president repeatedly tried to get

Americans to think that the judiciary, there was something wrong with it. 

It`s illegitimate.  It can`t be trusted. 


Obviously, Roberts felt part of his job was to make sure that Americans and

others can believe in his branch of government. 


REID:  So, you know, I`m not convinced Donald Trump knows about the 9th

Circuit.  Let`s just be blunt, right?  But you said –


BESCHLOSS:  I think he`s been told that gets him in trouble. 


REID:  People were saying, he`s been told.  He`s in trouble. 


So, this is a part of what Roberts said in response to that, because Donald

Trump said he was a Obama judge.  He said we do not have Obama judges, or

Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.  What we have is an

extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal

right to those appearing before them.  That independent judiciary is

something we ought to all be thankful for. 


Call me a bit skeptical because I`m not so sure that John Roberts is right. 

We can predict with dead certainty how at least four judges are always

going to vote.  We know how the liberal judges are going to vote and we

know how the five conservative judges other than sometimes him.  So, how is

– how is he correct about that? 


BESCHLOSS:  Well, one of the reasons he is saying it that because in recent

history.  You know, Bush v. Gore, there is a strange correlation between

the justices having voted for Bush, the Republican people, the Democrats

voting for Gore. 


But there are exceptions.  You know, John Roberts was the one who strained

to find this very creative way that allowed the Supreme Court to uphold

Obamacare.  But I think we always have to be skeptical of these justices

not being too independent, especially with Brett Kavanaugh who came to the

court very indebted to Donald Trump and maybe a little bit nervous about

crossing him by, you know, ruling against let`s say, Trump in a subpoena

case or a new version of U.S. v. Nixon. 


REID:  Yes.


BESCHLOSS:  But I`m glad Roberts has said this, he`s now sort of put

himself on the spot and we`re going to watch very carefully whether the

Supreme Court is full of independent justices or people who do operate sort

of robotically, as you`re saying. 


REID:  Roberts is the new candidate. 


BESCHLOSS:  I think.  It remains to be seen, but it would be nice to think

that`s true. 


REID:  I would love somebody interview him what he thinks about voting

rights that – 


BESCHLOSS:  I think we`ll know about that within a couple years. 


REID:  Yes, absolutely.  Thanks very much, Michael Beschloss.  Always a

treat.  Happy Thanksgiving. 


BESCHLOSS:  Happy Thanksgiving to you, Joy.


REID:  Thank you very much. 


And we`ll be right back.  




REID:  In 1863, you needed a magnifying glass to read “The New York Times.” 

It cost 4 cents on Sundays. 


Most of the left column on this day in October of 1863 was saved for

updates about the civil war.  It was ripping a big gaping hole through the

center of our democracy over the issue of slavery. 


Here are some of the headlines.  Recovery of wounded, 13,000 casualties. 

Long streets corps utterly routed. 


In the fall of 1863, the Union was on defense.  They had just lost a major

battle in Georgia.  More than 34,000 people died in just that one battle. 


The civil war was a crescendo.  The nation was close to tearing itself

irrevocably apart.  It was an open question whether the country would

emerge was one nation or two. 


But in the midst of all that despair, the president went looking to impart

a little hope.  And so printed right next to all those updates about the

death and destruction caused by the war was a proclamation that as

president of the United States of America, quote, the year that is drawing

towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and

helpful skies.  In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and

severity, peace has been provided with all nations, order has been

maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed.  


Needful diversions of wealth and strength from the fields of peaceful

industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle or

the ship.  The ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements.  No human

counsel has devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. 


It has seemed to be fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently

and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole

American people.  I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of

the United States to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November

next as a day of Thanksgiving. 


In October 1863, while the nation was busy fighting a civil war, President

Abraham Lincoln issued that Thanksgiving proclamation, asking the country

to come together and take stock, to be thankful and hopeful in a time

marred by conflict and war. 


And it is because of that mellifluous and profound piece of writing from

our 16th president that we celebrate Thanksgiving today as a national



Now, if you track the mashed potatoes on your Thanksgiving table through

winding path of history, you wind up here on the front page of that paper

with the presidential proclamation. 


Our American landscape obviously looks a little different these days. 

Instead of dispatches from the battlefields of American states and casualty

reports in the tens of thousands and wrenching debates over freedom versus

enslavement, our newspapers today are filled with wildfires and troops at

the border and wondering when the next indictments will come down. 


But even in times of national strife, in times of national division, we

still do set apart the day to take in the fruitful fields and helpful skies

with one heart, one voice as a whole of the American people. 


And it`s probably the understatement of the decade to say that`s not often

an easy lift.  But here`s to the attempt and here`s wishing you a happy,

peaceful, and hopeful day of Thanksgiving. 


We`ll be right back.




REID:  Programming note.  Last week, MSNBC premiered a new project hosted

by the great Rachel Maddow.  It`s a documentary about Richard Nixon called

“Betrayal.”  If you missed it, do not worry. 


“Betrayal” tells a fascinating story about Richard Nixon, but it`s not

about Watergate.  This is something Nixon did on his way to the presidency,

back during the election of 1968. 




RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST:  Nixon leads in the polls, but his White House

dreams are haunted by LBJ`s progress towards ending the war. 


MARK UPDEGROVE, LBJ FOUNDATION:  Nixon worries about the prospect of an

October surprise, that peace is being negotiated, that it`s in hand, and

that it boosts the prospects of Hubert Humphrey. 


MADDOW:  Mid-October, Lyndon Johnson fuels Nixon`s worst fear. 


LYNDON JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT:  Who is that speaking?  Dick, is that





JOHNSON:  Hubert, are you on?




MADDOW:  In a conference call, LBJ updates the presidential candidates

confidentially on a big breakthrough in the negotiations.  North Vietnam at

last is willing to talk with South Vietnam. 


JOHNSON:  This is in absolute confidence because any speeches or any

comments referring to the substance of these matters will be injurious to

your country. 


JOSEPH CALIFANO, JR.:  After all this work all year, Johnson finally had a

package that the North Vietnamese would accept, and he was selling it to

the South Vietnamese. 


MADDOW:  Nixon gets a top secret briefing from the commander-in-chief on

his progress towards peace.  And what does Nixon do?  He betrays the

president and the nation. 




REID:  What Nixon did with that information, how he got away with what

President Johnson called treason and what his actions cost, thousands of

Americans and Vietnamese, are the subjects of a TRMS special report called

“Betrayal”.  You can catch it this Friday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, on MSNBC. 

Definitely watch, and DVR it so you can watch it again.


That does it for us tonight.  We`ll see you again tomorrow.


Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Ali Velshi, sitting in for Lawrence



Hi, Ali.  How are you?







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